Chapter III:12: The Criteria for Fundamental Articles

Concerning the Criteria, by which Necessary Articles are distinguished from the non-necessary, our AUTHOR here discourses Negatively and Positively.


. Negatively, Articles are not to be esteemed Necessary, α. From the Universal Consent of all those professing the name Christian: nevertheless, this is maintained by Smalcius[1] in his contra Smiglecium,[2] Hobbes[3] in his book de Cive, Jean Le Clerc[4] in his dissertation de eligenda inter Christianos dissentientes sententia and libro de Incredulitate, concerning which see BUDDEUS’ Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VII, § 10, tome 2, pages 1390a, 1392b, 1393a; Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury,[5] in general, makes universal Consent the sole norm of Truth in things necessary: see WALCH’S[6] Miscellanea Sacra, book I, exercitation VI, § 5, page 148; BUDDEUS’ de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapter I, § 27, page 105. But, 1. Faith, and so the necessity of the Articles of Faith, is to be reckoned, not from the consent of men or sects, but from the Word of God, unless we would wish the faith of the Christian man to depend upon human authority, Romans 10:17, etc. 2. Monsters of men have often taken the Christian name, who hold as Articles of Faith the dreams of the delirious, and the license to establish or to oppose whatever: should the consent of these be required in order to establish what a Fundamental Article is? 3. If this mark is not mistaken, then the Apostles did not hold as Fundamentals, the Advent of Christ in the flesh, the Resurrection of the dead, Justification by faith in Jesus, etc., which, together with other head, had already of old suffered contradiction. 4. Indeed, in this manner hardly any head of the Christian Faith is given that has not suffered contradiction at one time or other. 5. Thus only those Books are to be held as Canonical that were always held as such by all sects of Christians; but almost no Book is given that has not suffered contradiction. 6. This very thing is extremely doubtful: for what would those Articles be that are proven by the consent of all Christians: indeed, how many controverted points does that Hobbesian Article, that Jesus is that Christ that was going to come, involve? compare SPANHEIM’S Disputation X de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 5-7, opera, tome 3, columns 1331-1334; GISBERT BONNET’S[7] Præfationem before section II, part I, Lelandi de Utilitate et Necessitate Revelationis Christi, pages LVI, LVII, LXVII-LXIX.


β. Nor from Revelation Exhibited in just so many Letters in Sacred Scripture, which formerly was maintained by Mani, Arius, Eutyches, etc.; thus today the Socinians, Ostorodius,[8] and others; thus also in part the more recent Methodists. For this is not common to all necessary doctrines, nor is it proper to these alone: indeed, in those things that are revealed in the Scriptures the truth, usefulness, and necessity are to be considered: the former two obtain in all cases; but he that does not explicitly know all things consigned to letters in the whole Sacred Codex is not to be thought to have been cut off from salvation: compare SPANHEIM’S Disputation XI de Articulis Fundamentalibus, columns 1337-1340, Disputation X, § 3, column 1330.


γ. Not from the Practical argument, since Religion is not resolved into practice alone, as was seen in § 6. And so, when the Socinians or Remonstrants say that this is the Criterion of a Necessary and Fundamental Article, that it directly regards the furnishing of Obedience to God and Christ, or the study of piety and good works; they posit a Criterion that is not adequate for the matter nor sufficient, indeed, is not even true, if it be taken according to the understand of our adversaries. 1. This Criterion is not adequate for the matter, because not only precepts to be done, but also dogmas to be believed, are necessary for salvation, as already observed: indeed, a sinner is said to be justified, not by the obedience of works, but by the assent of faith. 2. Indeed, this Criterion, taken according to the sense of our adversaries, is manifestly false. Since as things hurtful to Piety they take away the principal heads of Religion, the grace of Election, of Redemption through Christ, of Vocation, of Justification, of Sanctification, likewise Original Sin; on the other hand, they posit as the proper and proximate cause of good works our Free Will: compare SPANHEIM’S de Articulis Fundamentalibus, Disputation X, § 8-10, columns 1334-1337; STAPFER’S Institutiones Theologicas polemicas, tome 1, chapter II, § 263-265, and chapter III, section XII, § 989, compared with § 975-988, likewise tome 2, chapter IX, § 46-133, and chapter X, § 9, 375, 376.


δ. Not from inclusion in the Apostle’s Creed, commonly so called: because, 1. this does not treat of the Worship of God, only contains theoretical Articles, which have regard to Faith. 2. It does not expressly contain all the Articles of Faith, although beyond those expressly mentioned there more are able to be elicited thence by consequence: thus it contains nothing explicitly concerning Providence, concerning the Satisfaction of Christ. 3. It did not proceed from the Apostles, although RUFFINUS also in his Expositione Symboli Apostolici[9] thus supposes from the Tradition of the Elders, opera Hieronymi, tome 4, page 102; but from the ancient Church successively in order to address rising heresies. Concerning this Symbol as composed by the Apostles themselves, and what each contributed to it, FABRICIUS relates the multiform Tradition from Antiquity in his Codice Apocrypho Novi Testamenti, third part, pages 339 and following; while at the same time making mention of a number of Authors, both of the Lutherans and of the Reformed, in whose writings a demonstration of the vanity of this Tradition is able to be found; with which join BUDDEUS’ Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter II, § 1, 2, tome 1, pages 439-444. Concerning the Apostle’s Creed see also VOETIUS’[10] volume I Disputationum theologicarum, pages 64-74; WITSIUS’ Exercitation I in Symbolum Apostolicum, which concerns the Authors and Authority of the Apostole’s Creed; BINGHAM’S[11] Origines ecclesiasticas, book X, chapters III, IV, in which he discusses this and other ancient Creeds of the Faith, volume 4, pages 62-119; LEUSDEN’S[12] Philologum Hebræo-Græcum, Dissertation IV, § 7. BULL,[13] in his Judicio Ecclesiæ catholicæ, etc., chapter V, § 2, 3, page 35, holds, 1. the Symbol called Apostolic, inasmuch as it is conformable to the doctrine of the Apostles, although not in just so many words, and in that form and method in which it is found today, was dictated or composed by the Apostles themselves; but it is actually nothing other than the Symbol of the Roman Church, which at length received its finishing touches after the four hundredth year of Christ in that Church; with the Churches of the East making use of another Symbol in the meantime. 2. That the Roman Church was formerly able to make use, and so did indeed make use, of a succincter and briefer Symbol than what was necessary for the Churches of the East; because these were vexed with almost every sort of Heretic, but in the Roman Church no Heresy arose that might indicate that its briefer Confession is to be understood otherwise than according to the genuine sense of the Church. But GRABE,[14] in his Annotatis ad BULLI Judicium Ecclesiaæ catholicæ, chapters V, VI, pages 61-68, contends that the first threads of the Apostle’s Creed, and its later weavings in the individual Articles, and finally its finishing touches, were made in the age of the Apostles themselves, and by their counsel and authority, or at least permission; so that already in the age of the Apostles it had all the Articles that are found in it today, with two excepted, concerning the Descent of Christ into Hell, and concerning the Communion of Saints.


ε. Finally, not from the mere Determination of the Church, as it is done in the case of the Papacy; thus the Walenburch Brothers, in Examination III Principalibus, following the Scholastics and Casuists, among whom is Azor, Institutionibus Moralibus,[15] part I, bestow the power of increasing the number of the Articles of the Faith specifically to the head of the Church: thus Andradius,[16] in book II of Defensionis Tridentinæ fidei, “The Roman Popes by defining many things, which previously were hidden, are wont to enlarge the Symbol of Faith:” while among the errors because of which Leo X smote Luther with excommunication, in the Bull Exsurge this is also referred, “It is certain that it is by no means in the hand of the Church or of the Pope to establish Articles of Faith.” But in this manner, 1. the argumentation is circular, and, before the determination of the Church might be held as the Criterion of Fundamental Articles, it must first be proven that the arbitration of the Catholic Faith and Salvation is to be submitted to the Church, specifically today’s Roman Church, the contrary of which appeared in Chapter II, § 41, 42. 2. By this mark the difficulties concerning the determination of Fundamental Articles are not removed, but rather increased: see SPANHEIM’S Disputation I de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 2, column 1290, and Disputation X, § 4, columns 1330, 1331, opera, tome 3, part 2.


. And so Positively Articles are to be called Necessary and Fundamental, 1. The Necessity of which is asserted by express testimonies of Scripture, or by the denunciation of death made to those not holding them, or by the conjunction of Salvation with them: thus for the necessity of the Faith of the Trinity, or of the plurality of divine Persons, see negatively 1 John 2:23, positively John 17:3; likewise concerning Christ, Ephesians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Acts 4:12; concerning the Justification of Faith apart from works, Romans 3:19, 20, 24, 28; Galatians 2:16; 5:4; concerning the Resurrection of the Dead, 1 Corinthians 15. 2. Those are to be called Necessary, without which the accomplishment of our Salvation is not able to stand, so certain a tie of which with Salvation is discovered according to the norm of Scripture, whether they be considered as causes of Salvation, more or less principal, since with the causes removed the effect is removed; or as means leading to the end, since with the means denied the end is not able to be expected. Thus the principal Causes of Salvation are the Grace of God, Romans 3:24; the merit of Christ, and Justification through that, Romans 3:24, 25; the Sanctification of the regenerating Spirit, John 3:5; Titus 3:4-7. The instrumental cause is Faith, John 3:16, 36; Acts 10:43; Hebrews 11:6: Repentance is also a means tending toward the same end of Salvation, Luke 13:3, 5: compare VOETIUS’ Disputation de Articulis et Erroribus Fundamentalibus, Disputationum theologicarum, part II, pages 511-538; WITSIUS’ Exercitation II in Symbolum Apostolicum, which concerns Articulis Fundamentalibus.

[1] Valentinus Smalcius (1572-1622) was a German Socinian theologian. He translated the Racovian Catechism into German (probably having had a hand in the Catechism’s original composition), and the Racovian New Testament into Polish.


[2] Martinus Smiglecius (1564-1618) was a Polish Jesuit philosopher.


[3] Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher, remembered for his work in political philosophy and social contract theory. He was also interested in theology, but heterodox in his beliefs, denying incorporeal substance (reducing all things to matter and motion), and the divine inspiration of the Biblical prophets.


[4] Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736) was educated in Geneva, under the tutelage of Philippe Mestrezat and Francis Turretin, and ordained in circa 1680. His sympathy for the theology of the Remonstrants made it impossible for him to continue in Geneva. He settled as Professor of Philosophy at Amsterdam (1684-1731). In his Sentimens, Le Clerc finds fault with much of Richard Simon’s work, but his critical approach to the Scripture is similar to that of Simon.


[5] Edward Herbert, Baron of Cherbury (1583-1648), was a soldier, diplomat, and religious philosopher. He is sometimes called the “Father of English Deism”.


[6] Johann Georg Walch (1693-1775) was a German Lutheran theologian, serving as Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry (1719-1724), and then as Professor of Theology (1724-1775), at Jena.


[7] Gijsbert Bonnet (1723-1805) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian; he served as Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1761-1804).


[8] Krzysztof Ostorodt (c. 1560-1611) was a Polish Socinian. He was sent as a missionary to the Netherlands (1598); in Leiden he stirred up great controversy by his success in converting the students of the University.


[9] Ruffinus was a fourth century churchman, a friend of Jerome turned foe, a commentator, and a monastery builder. He wrote Commentarius in symbolum apostolorum.


[10] Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) was a Dutch Reformed minister and theologian. In 1619, he attended the Synod of Dort as its youngest member. Some years later he was appointed as Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1636-1676).


[11] Joseph Bingham (1668-1723) was an Anglican churchman and theologian. In his great work, Origines Ecclesiasticæ, he endeavored to provide a definitive treatment of the ancient rites and customs of the Church.


[12] Johannes Leusden (1624-1699) was a Dutch Reformed Orientalist; he served as Professor of Oriental Languages at Utrecht (1650-1699).


[13] George Bull (1634-1710) was an Anglican theologian and Bishop of St. David’s. He was fully orthodox with respect to his Trinitarian theology, but heterodox with respect to his assertion of the necessity of good works for justification, and therefore sometimes accused of Socinianism.


[14] John Ernest Grabe (1666-1711) was an Anglican theologian and chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford. He was involved in producing the Spicilegium Patrum et hæreticorum, and new editions of Justin Martyr’s Apologia prima, Irenæus’ Adversus omnes hæreses, and the Septuagint (based upon Codex Alexandrinus).


[15] Juan Azor (1535-1603) was a Spanish Jesuit philosopher and theologian. He is remembered for his three volume Institutionibus Moralibus.


[16] Diogo de Paiva de Andrade (1528-1575) was a Portuguese theologian. He was active at Trent, and afterwards, against the Protestant Reformation.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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